“While watching a television show or a movie, when we see a shy girl dressed up to leave a ‘good first impression’, wearing a sweet smile, carrying a tray of fancy tea-cups for absolute strangers who are very keen to know if she can cook well or not, we let our delusive selves wonder who even does that these days! Well, it is still a very common phenomenon in Indian households and I know this for a fact because I was made to do this, with the difference that I was neither pretending to be happy nor felt shy. When you are brought up in an upper middle class household, sent to a good school for education, you tend to forget that what they refer to as the roots of our culture, would make you marry a stranger when you are the least prepared for it. And you know what? Good girls nod their head in a ‘shy yes’ when they are asked to get married. I fought the best I could to ensure that my family dropped the idea of seeing me become a bride because I did not want to start the journey my mind had done no preparations for, because I wanted to study and become the woman of my aspirations, because I was just 18! But how do you win it when the people who love you the most, are on the other side of the battlefield?
To earn the title of an exemplary bahu, I was supposed to do the household chores a certain way, express myself in a volume that is barely audible, cover my head and face in a veil while attending funerals, wear pre-approved clothes to weddings and give the family a child within the first two years of marriage. And no matter what or how much I did to make everyone content, it was never enough.
The child in me was refusing to get married when I was insisted to and less than two years later, I had become a mother to the most gorgeous child in the whole wide world. When she was an infant, I would get to meet her only when she would cry and required to be fed. A couple of weeks later when I found the pattern too disturbing to handle, I made it very clear to everyone that she was my little girl and would spend most of her time with me. My daughter woke up the rebel in me from her slumber and I realized how in order to make her become fearless, I had to practise what I wanted to preach as a mother.
I enrolled myself in long distance learning programs, burnt the midnight oil to learn and excel, stopped caring about what the people around me would say if I did things my way because let’s accept it- the ones who are used to saying unkind things after judging you on the basis of their pre-conceived notions, wouldn’t stop regardless of how religiously you follow their rule book! Business suits, presentations, multiple jobs in different cities of India and one in Dubai and finally my own business- I did it all with absolute passion because my resolution to not be reduced to a rich man’s wife or a mother or a doting daughter-in-law(which by the way is impossible to achieve), made me become the independent, opinionated, well-read woman I am today. However impossible it seemed initially to become the hero of my story, my voice and vigor didn’t let me become the victim of the circumstances and I learnt to live life on my terms.
The society and people around you very conveniently pick labels and tags to define you if you don’t fight to be known by the labels of your choice. You may think that feminism and women empowerment are overrated in the world we live in today, but trust me, we still have a long, long way to go.
My little girl who is eight now, would not have learnt to dream without inhibitions had I given up on mine. I let them judge me all they want to because the pride, hope and ambition in my daughter’s eyes do not really leave any room for the judgements of the people who are too idle to rate me as a bahu.”